Pakistan: Targeting The Symbols Of Our Culture
By Adeela Naureen
Man with a beard and head cover, man on a prayer mat and a family observing basic tenants of Islam, these are some of the new targets TV channels, social media and cinema in Pakistan have chosen to home on to. Are men with the beard and head cover and women with veil the only things gone wrong in our society and rest everyone in this jungle of wolves and vultures is an angel and role model? Or, there is something more than what meets the eye, an orchestrated campaign in the cultural war waged against Pakistani people. I will not try to sound pessimistic or conspiracy theorist, but express my observations of the media and cinema in the last decade or so and effects of a phenomenon called the Musharrafization of Pakistani culture.
Of late, a number of drama serials on popular entertainment channels and a recent hit film with similar hidden message have been released and telecasted (it is a coincidence that these drama serials and the hit film appeared in the same time frame). I have a few reservations about the message and the way it has been conveyed. It is divisive and tends to play on sensitivities of sects (Shia/Sunni), it targets and stereotypes maulvi as the ultimate evil, and it targets the youth bulge of Pakistan/Islam, ask the West the importance of more children, they have run these enlightened themes and committed collective suicide. I will ask worthy readers to read Pat Buchanan's Death of the West and your eyes will open. Is this the only issue in Pakistan, who are the angels here in this Jungle? Probably man with the beard is the only wall standing between absolute nakedness and our society. It may be the reflection of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) prophecy, “A time will come when Ulema will be ridiculed and prostitutes will be honored.”
As far back as February 5, 2004, The Economist ran an in-depth article on the integration of the growing Muslim population in France to French secular society, spurred by the controversy over the proposed law banning religious symbols in public schools. The article reported, "Outside France the headscarf ban has caused bafflement and indignation, and not only in the Arab world. Yet French support for the ban remains strong…and unites unlikely bedfellows. Secularists join ranks with feminists, who are dismayed that daughters now choose to wear the veil their mothers battled to discard. Politically, the ban is seen as a way to take support from the far-right National Front… The government stresses that its new law refers to all religions, but nobody is fooled. How many schoolchildren turn up to class wearing crucifixes of a 'manifestly excessive dimension'? 'It's not the crucifix or the kippa that is targeted,' insists Khalil Merroun, the rector of the Evry mosque, 'but Islam.'"
An interesting reading is a piece by Dr. M. Saidul Islam on the Sonar Bangladesh.com, Violent Secularization: ‘Minority Islam’ in Muslim Majority Bangladesh, it goes on “Religious Freedom in Bangladesh: A Thing of the Past? More than 85% of Bangladesh’s 150 million people are Muslims. Bangladesh earns its title as ‘the third largest Muslim country of the world’ following Indonesia and Pakistan because of its enormous size of Muslim population. Their religion, Islam, is however becoming a ‘minority’ day by day. While Muslims—in spite of being a minority—are enjoying their basic religious freedom in the West, this religious freedom is increasingly becoming ‘a thing of the past’ in Bangladesh”. Dr Saidul Islam goes on to elaborate the place of Islam in Bangladeshi society, “However, religion, particularly Islam, is a deep-rooted social institution in Bangladesh. Social norms and other interactions in the country are largely originated and guided by Islamic principles. Therefore abrupt replacement of Islam from the social fabrics and political arena will both disrupt social cohesion to and generate massive opposition from the masses. To avert this imminent disruption and opposition, the current regime has adopted some approaches, which are both paradoxical and diametrically opposed to one another”.
You can draw parallels in what is happening in France and Bangladesh to what is being propagated in Pakistan by the pseudo intellectuals and champions of secular ideology. Some major trends like the Musharrafization of Pakistani society have been systematically nurtured and subtly propagated in Pakistan in the last decade or so. These include, One, the message that maulvi was the worst thing that happened to Pakistan, two, women emancipation means targeting the basics laid out in Quran and Sunnah regarding women rights and her place in an Islamic society, three, challenging the basic teachings of Islam related to social obligations by trying to make these controversial, four gnaw at the roots of family system(this being the only sunnah that majority of Islamic society follows by default),five, mock the traditional symbols associated with Islam ( beard, turban, veil/hijab, prayer mat/mosque),six, raise subtly veiled questions challenging established and basic pillars of Islam(Ghamdi series run by one of the channels used to ask questions like, Does God Almighty exist? and it was pretended that Ghamdi sahib through a scholarly debate was taking pains to prove that yes God Almighty existed and thus putting a basket of Ihsan on our heads) ,I will term this as insulting our basic common sense and intelligence, and seven but most important, Islam had outlived its utility and time had come to follow the western and Indian culture for the panacea of our problems lies in the western secularist ideology and culture.
While highlighting the Musharrafization of society, I must acknowledge that ulema and the maulvi in Pakistan have borne the brunt of this none sense with lot of patience and perseverance. Islam remains deep rooted in our hearts and psyche and this wave of imposition of foreign ideology will smash against the rock of Islamic Culture and meet its Waterloo. The society has to remain vigilant and stead fast in these times and contest this new narrative of Musharrafization with Iman and vigour. Removing the prophets, saints and Imams from the chain of guidance would lead us to a Jungle mentality. The West has suffered from these experiments and is now calling for reverting back to basics of Christianity and family system. The human beings are rebellious and operate in defined systems called religions. Musharrafization is divisive on many accounts, Pakistan is already reeling under bad governance and sham democracy, there are thousands of other subjects requiring attention of genius of people in TV and film industry, but alas family system and the maulvi is the only evil visible to supporters of Musharrafization. Family system is probably the only surviving Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in entire Islamic world, please let it survive.
Adeela Naureen is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad and working on socio-religious outlook of Pakistan. She is specializing in the phenomenon of Musharraffization of Pakistani culture and its long term effects on Pakistan’s polity and social milieu. Her areas of interest include Indian cultural onslaught against Pakistan, effects of social media in the Arab Spring, issues of governance in Pakistan, question of sovereignty in the changing environment and study of fault lines in the developed world.
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